Well, the banning of Eye of Ugin has come. It felt like an eternity (though it wasn't actually that long) for Eldrazi decks in Modern to be taken down a notch. I believe that most players were expecting at least Eldrazi Temple or Eye of Ugin to be banned, but were completely unaware of the possibility of unbannings. Did Wizards make a mistake introducing both Sword of the Meek and Ancestral Vision to Modern?
I couldn't be happier with the banning and unbannings. I believe it is important to say that right away, as when cards get unbanned there's always a chance that an archetype or synergy got overlooked, and a broken deck is created out of the unbanned cards. However, in this instance, based on historical data and how Modern currently stands I don't think this will be the case. In fact, Modern looks like it could once again be a diverse and healthy format. However, there are some major winners and losers after the recent developments.
Eldrazi has clearly gotten cut down a notch, but will the deck continue to be a major player in Modern? This is the current debate, and while it seems like the loss of Eye of Ugin significantly hurts the deck, Eldrazi decks will continue to exist. However, expect to see the amount of people playing Eldrazi-based decks to drop off significantly. The deck is on the same level as other Modern decks now, and after getting a chance to play Eldrazi with Eye of Ugin, playing without Eye of Ugin is a hard pill to swallow. Expect to see Eldrazi strategies go from the most-played decks to a small percentage of Modern's field.
Another deck took a major hit: Tron. Yes, Eye of Ugin was most often a singleton in Tron but it was still a very important piece of the deck. While only a singleton, it could be searched out late in the game once Tron was online, and become a win condition itself. There is no easy replacement to Eye of Ugin in Tron. One option is to add a nonbasic land that can produce creatures, but these types of lands aren't as powerful as the ability to search out an Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger. The other option is going to be to add additional threats to the deck.
While I still expect to see Tron played a reasonable amount, it will be interesting to see how the deck will adapt. Perhaps there is a legitimate case for Eldrazi Tron, which can incorporate a variety of Eldrazi creatures, along with Eldrazi Temple. Most likely, the deck will simply become a bit worse, and lose its trademark late-game inevitability. This is not a bad thing for Modern, as Tron has become one of the most powerful decks in the format. A result in Tron's perceived weakness could be that sideboard slots will be less focused on Tron. Also, expect maindeck Eldrazi hate cards like Spreading Seas and Blood Moon to see less play, which makes Tron better.
While Tron and Eldrazi decks have been crippled, many other archetypes have been lifted. Expect some completely new archetypes to emerge.
Ancestral Vision is a card that sees play in Legacy as a powerful card drawer that interacts favorably with cascade. However, the cascade spells available in Modern aren't nearly as powerful as they are in Legacy. Without cascade spells and library manipulation, drawing Ancestral Vision later in the game is a liability. On the other hand, suspending Ancestral Vision on turn one should still be powerful, as right now there are less combo decks that kill by turn four, so most of the time Ancestral Vision will have time to resolve.
In many ways, Ancestral Vision is similar to a Leyline. If it's in your opener, great, but otherwise the card isn't that impressive. In fact, I was surprised that Ancestral Vision was banned. The card is not too strong for Modern when cards like Bloodbraid Elf and Shardless Agent are not legal. That hasn't stopped the price tag of Ancestral Vision from shooting up significantly over the past 48 hours. Blue control decks have been struggling in Modern and this card could make room for them to return to form. Here is a look at a Blue/Red Ancestral Vision deck:
This list is built for Ancestral Vision. Blue/red strategies have been proven to be successful in Modern, from Storm to Splinter Twin all the way to Delver. There many familiar cards here, but the deck does have a bit of a twist. The package of noncreature spells is typical of a control deck, and with the mix of removal and Counterspells there is definitely some wiggle room. Some of the win conditions, though, are a bit unusual. Goblin Dark-Dwellers is here for the ability to replay Ancestral Vision, but there are some other nice targets for Goblin Dark-Dwellers as well. While the interaction with Snapcaster Mage and Ancestral Vision doesn't work the way you want it to, it works just great with Goblin Dark-Dwellers.
Hordeling Outburst is a card that may raise some eyebrows, but it fills the role of a card like Pia and Kiran Nalaar. The Goblin Tokens are real threats, and there are a variety of ways to flash Hordeling Outburst back. It seems like the best way to generate a threat for three or less mana as an instant or sorcery in these colors. Jace, Vryn's Prodigy also provides a way to discard Ancestral Vision when drawn later in the game, which is important. This deck has both old and new elements, so while I wouldn't say it looks like a typical control deck, it can play that game. Vedalken Shackles doesn't see much play but back in the day it worked wonders alongside Ancestral Vision. Perhaps it can again.
Expect to see a variety of decks attempt to incorporate Ancestral Vision; with a format like Modern there are a variety of directions you can go.
Unlike Ancestral Vision, Sword of the Meek has only had success alongside one card: Thopter Foundry. Sword of the Meek isn't good by itself — you need to build a deck around Thopter Foundry and Sword of the Meek. While this deck doesn't need to play a ton of artifacts, it should have enough to make Thopter Foundry reasonable on its own. Here is my Blue-Black Tezzerator list that incorporates the combo:
Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas plays perfectly with the combo of Sword of the Meek and Thopter Foundry, as it is a way to find those combo pieces, and means you don't have to play the full playset of Thopter Foundry or Sword of the Meek. Tezzerator has seen play across multiple formats but hasn't become a mainstay in Modern. That may be about to change.
The numbers here may seem a bit funky but with two copies of Trinket Mage, having a toolbox of one-mana artifacts is nice. There's also Dimir Signet and Talisman of Dominance to help ramp Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas out on turn three. The deck does have some disruption but when the deck is working properly you can find any silver bullets you need. Thirst for Knowledge is another way to Sift through the deck and discard excess artifacts. In many ways the deck is similar to Lantern Control, as there are certain decks in the format that will simply fold to an Ensnaring Bridge. There are a lot of working parts to this deck, but I expect to see more attempts to build Tezzerator and other archetypes that use Sword of the Meek and Thopter Foundry.
The unbannings should open the door for new archetypes to emerge based around Sword of the Meek and Ancestral Vision, but there are also existing archetypes that significantly improved with the Eye of Ugin ban. The decks that had poor matchups versus both Eldrazi and Tron now look much better. So which deck is the biggest winner after the banning and unbannings? Green/black midrange decks. The worst matchup for a deck like Jund has traditionally been Tron, and Eye of Ugin has a lot to do with that. Without Eye of Ugin, Jund has a much better shot to grind out Tron. Eldrazi strategies also were rough on Abzan or Jund, so I expect that these midrange decks will be the most popular archetypes in the new Modern format.
The less unfair decks around, the more a deck full of individually good cards can prosper. Personally, I'm hoping to also see the aggressive decks return to form. Burn and Zoo lost a lot of popularity after Eldrazi came to power, but I suspect these strategies will be much better-positioned now. Even the new Sword of the Meek and Ancestral Vision decks will have trouble with lots of aggression. This is an exciting time, as once again Modern has opened up in a way that will make many more archetypes competitive, and that prospect is exciting.
Thanks for reading,